How to Rid Your Home of Clutter: The Tsh Oxenrieder Way

Hudson’s handprint in salt dough (18mo)

Well, folks, I just finished moving and if there is one thing I can say with full confidence after this long and exhausting process, it is this:

I am waging an all-out war against clutter.

Clutter is in for it. Clutter better run for it’s life. ‘Cause I’m coming after it and I will show. no. mercy.

I just spent days sorting through papers, hauling boxes and trashing things we’ve held on to for years and I am going to try and tell you how good it feels to be free:

It feels wonderful. It feels light and fluffy. It feels like a whole new start. (Yay!)

This move took a lot longer than any of our other moves and it was because this time we decided to downsize. We chose to do most of the work on the front end (while moving out of our apartment) rather than being stuck with it on the back end (moving into a new house). The day I finally move things into a beautiful, new home I do not want to find it immediately filled with junk.

We packed up about half our things two weeks ago and in the time since, I’ve learned how much easier it is to cook, clean and live with less stuff. It’s amazing! The kids are happier, I’m able to keep our home cleaner and even dinner seems to come together more quickly. My stress level is down and I find myself wondering, if life is so good without all that stuff, why do we keep it?

So we decided to wage war against the items in our home that we don’t need but have been keeping anyway. For our guide we chose Tsh Oxenreider’s book, Organized Simplicity: A Clutter Free Approach to Intentional Living. Have you read it? It’s a helpful, engaging book that I’d suggest to anybody (and do, frequently!). Her tips for de-cluttering your home boil down to three easy(ish) steps. I”m listing these off the top of my head.

Approach each room one at a time and:

  1. First, toss all the visible trash
  2. Get rid of obvious things you know you don’t want
  3. Evaluate all of your belongings. Keep only those items which add value to your life right now.
The key to step three is deciding whether or not an item adds value to your life right now. Not, will it add value to your life in the future, or did it add value to your life in the past. But right now, today, does it add value to your life and home?

This is my new way of preserving the memory of a card without keeping the card: Take a picture!
From my Monday Night Bible Study friends in Hawaii. Love you girls!

We were neck-deep in this process (it may have been when I was sorting through my fabric) when Brian said, “If we say the words, ‘I might be able to use that someday,’ then it’s going out the door.”

This can be a difficult process, I know first-hand! But instead of getting overwhelmed, my advice is to take it one step at a time and to ask these questions as you go (inspired by Tsh):

  1. Does the item still offer value to your life?
  2. Is there room for it in your home?
  3. Do you know it to be useful, or believe it to be beautiful? (William Morris, Interior Design)
  4. Are you keeping it to make someone else happy?
  5. Does it detract from the peace of your home?
  6. If the item holds emotional value, can you find a way to hold onto the memory without it?
“If you want to have a home that is easy to clean, easy to find things in, and easy to enjoy, then it will take work.” Tsh Oxenreider

I wish I had gone through these steps more often while we lived in our apartment. But to be honest, I don’t like doing it because a) it’s not fun, and b) it’s hard work. Who wants to sit there and go through drawers for two hours when you could be outside playing with the kids?

The lesson I learned from this move is that being free of clutter feels so good. It makes life easier, and is therefore worth the time spent. I like this one from Tsh:

“Can you imagine what it would be like not to have to spend hours a day folding clothes, picking up toys, and running errands? It just might be possible to enjoy moments watching your kiddos run through the sprinkler in the backyard… When your home runs efficiently and when it’s free of all but the essentials, you are more free to enjoy life.”

Um, yes, please! I’ll happily do the work that needs to be done, but I’d rather not do more than is necessary! 🙂

So, I know what you’re thinking. What about fabric? Let me tell you where I’ve landed on this issue. I absolutely love to sew (duh, you know that already *smile*) and I do actually use my fabric collection. So for me, is there any such thing as too much fabric? I say yes, but only:

  • If I’m storing a bunch of fabric just because it’s fabric, not because it inspires me
  • If it’s taking up too much space
  • If it’s clogging up my creative genius

Sometimes I don’t know what to sew because there is literally too much fabric staring me in the face. I can’t find the things I need because I don’t have enough space to display the things I have. I recently remedied this problem by giving away some of my fabric to friends I know will use and love it. That’s the best way to downsize! Spread the love a little bit. 🙂 And I’ve found that the best way to fight greed in my heart is to give something away.

And lastly, I’d like to share that yes, sometimes it was hard to part with items that had an emotional connection. Like these handprints I made with Hudson when we lived in Hawaii. They remind me of the day our group of friends got together at JoAnne’s house to make salt-dough ornaments with the kids. It was the last play date we had together before we moved off the island. The ornaments have been in a box for three years since we moved and I’ve never even looked at them. Are they sentimental? Yes. Do they remind me of Hudson’s sweet little self when he was one year old? Yes. Do they remind me of JoAnne’s kitchen and all those girls I love? Yes.

But guess what? I remember those things anyway. I remembered them before I opened the box of salt-dough ornaments. I have the pictures on my computer, I twitter with JoAnne. I think about Hawaii every single day. I don’t need those ornaments to remind me of the love we felt there, or of Hudson as a baby. I carry the memories in my heart everywhere I go.

So, I took a picture of the last remaining un-broken ornament with Hudson’s hand print. I took a picture of the bag. And then I tossed it in the garbage bin. Maybe you’re horrified. But I feel good about it. Free. This way I can keep making memories with Hudson and maybe he won’t have a house filled with useless objects by the time he’s 18 and he moves up and on.

And there you have it: my all-out war against clutter. I’ll try and remember this experience each and every time I bring something into our home. Does it add value to our lives? Or does it bring stress into our home?

If you’re looking for more tips on how to organize your life or keep your home clutter-free, read Tsh’s book Organized Simplicity. She also wrote a great book with 52 Tips for Making Life Simpler called One Bite at a Time.  She blogs at SimpleMom.

Thanks for reading! 


    • says

      Awesome, Bethany! I’m so glad to hear it! And it’s so great to see your beautiful face again. Thanks for stopping by! –Caila 🙂

  1. says

    Great post, Caila. With so many people in our house, I declutter kid (and other) stuff once a year (when they’re gone to VBS–haha), but feel like I need to do it more often. I was so relieved to see you throw away something sentimental because I always do and think I’m the only hard-hearted non-sentimental mom out there! Love reading your posts, Keren

    • says

      Keren, it’s so wonderful to see your name here! I loved your comment about not being “the only hard-hearted non-sentimental mom out there.” Ha! It’s so true. If we kept EVERYTHING our homes would be overrun, especially yours with your six kids! I love that you declutter while they are at vacation bible school; perfect.

      Miss you and love you guys! 🙂